Whatever, 2008.

Yeah, I don't know. I don't feel ready to review 2008. Maybe in a few more months. There were some great moments, and some not so great, but I'm still too tired from Christmas to think about it. I think that's why I didn't get to the Christmas letter this year. I'm just not ready to review anything.

Actually, I can't blame Christmas. It's the snow and cold. Or as we Minnesotans call it, "life." We've been routinely getting dumped on. And hanging out in the negative temps. It's sort of draining. Whine. Whine. Whine.

In any case, tonight Captain America and I will dust ourselves off and head to The Ballroom for The Festivities. I'm guessing New Year's is a little more glamorous somewhere where you don't have to consider the 4 inches of snow and ice still in the street when picking your shoes. Oh, and the possible snow banks you will have to step into. But the fireworks over a frozen lake reflecting off the snow are sort of something to behold.

Happy 2009!


Post-Christmas stupors

I'm in a major one. I still feel full from days ago. I want to eat soup & cereal for 3 weeks. My children are overtired. Overstimulated. Cranky.

Christmas Eve I headed off to church with Martha (I think that's what I might call my sister, since she calls me Cyberspace. She's not a Martha Stewart wanna-be either -- she's a better Martha than Martha. Because I suspect if you're at MS's house, you feel incredibly nervous you are going to do something to embarrass yourself and don't really enjoy yourself. At my Martha's house, you just settle into the warm coziness and pass the appetizers she just happened to whip up in the double ovens and have a glass of wine, or maybe a frothy chai from the Tassimo. How does she even know to buy Mediterranean cheese? Where was I?) Martha, Big Daddy and Colin and I were all singing at the two earlier services. So we were at church from 2:45 til about 6:45, minus a quick jaunt for a Christmas Caribou. God bless the lovelies like Kayla who sacrificed of their Christmas Eve to spread some Caribou Cheer.

After the second Christmas Eve service, we headed to Martha's for our family Christmas. Where, natch, Martha whipped up a batch of appetizers. Mediterranean cheese, some sort of yummy dip, chilled shrimp, little cheesey spinach filled thingies, fruitcake she made from scratch, lefse, etc, etc. And honestly, she says things like, "I'll just put out a few appetizers," and that's what appears. We followed it with pizzas, to make life easier. We did our gift exchange (in an effort to simplify, we've gone to a name draw, except for kids). And then I threatened my children that Santa would pass us by if they did not get their little bottoms into the car and get home to bed. Merry Christmas.

From Ella after the threat was made: "That's ok. I already got presents." Great.

Christmas morning the girls opened their stockings, and their gifts from each other. After which they were like Christmas professionals. "Oh Natalie, I love it! It's what I've always wanted!" {hug} "Oh Ella, just what I always wanted for Christmas, thank you!" {hug}

Then it was off to my in-laws for more festivities and food and gifts. Highlights included a recorder performance (because Santa was higher than a kite on Christmas spirit, and thought 88¢ recorders from Wal-Mart would be FUN!), cookie frosting and sprinkling, and all of the grandchildren fascinated by someone else's gift.

I knew Natalie was exhausted when the little fashionista opened up a sweater from Aunt Molly and started bawling, "I didn't WANT a sweater...I wanted a TOY." Yes. Well. Lovely. Time to go home now.


You get what you wish for

Well, it took me about a day too long, but I did the random integer.

That's right, Aimee. You said you wanted win #2. You got it.

More to come on Christmas, etc. later!


Merry Christmas, Dear Reader(s)

Ho, ho, ho my reader. I'm feelin' the spirit of Christmas, so I would like to give away a fabulous pair of earrings. Handcrafted. One of a kind. Because I made them, and I don't have the patience to make two pairs the same. And alright, I don't know that they're fabulous, but they are FREE.

This is an easy win, because there aren't many of you. And you can't even really see the earrings, because I'm still figuring out how to photograph them -- so won't this be a fun surprise!! One Lucky Duck reader will have your choice of three pairs:

Brown shell-like, with pewter lever backs

Pinkish with silver french wires

Gray with clear glass and silver french wires

Leave me a comment with something Christmas spirit-y. A favorite holiday tradition, favorite Christmas cd, the gift you're most excited to give, etc. I will draw a winner via the Random Integer Friday morning (Dec. 26), while y'all are out making your exchanges at Target.

I'm off to see if my children left me enough tape to wrap some presents. There was so much crafting going on here today. Our house is covered in chenille twist twists. Apparently this morning I had elves in the house, making pipe cleaner toys. You just never know what can happen on Christmas break. All we know is Mommy needs a Caribou or Starbucks (I'll take a chai with skim if you're stopping by).

I'll leave you with Natalie's carol of choice, which she sang for 15 minutes in the car tonight:

"Jingle Behws, Jingle Behws, Jingle all the way...so much fun is to ride soho toho sleigh - EH!
Jingle Behws, Jingle Behws, Jingle all the way...so much fun is to ride soho toho sleigh - EH!
Jingle Behws, Jingle Behws, Jingle all the way...so much fun is to ride soho toho sleigh - EH!
Jingle Behws, Jingle Behws, Jingle all the way...so much fun is to ride soho toho sleigh - EH!"

You get the idea.


Snow day!

I am declaring myself snowed in. Despite the fact that I could probably go somewhere if I wanted to.

Instead today I have FINALLY finished Jane Eyre. I'm not going to say I loved it. For the most part, it made me feel depressed and I plodded through it. But it feels good to have finished it. And to have read a classic.

I am doing laundry.

I am going to bake ooey gooey molasses cookies.

I hope to get some presents wrapped and under the tree.

And I will sit here wondering if the Sunday School program is going to be postponed a second time. Hooray, Minnesota!! You are so fun! Toying with our plans and emotions!


My children are precious gifts from God

My children are precious gifts from God and I am happy they have a sisterly bond.
My children are precious gifts from God and I am happy they have a sisterly bond.
My children are precious gifts from God and I am happy they have a sisterly bond.
My children are precious gifts from God and I am happy they have a sisterly bond.
My children are precious gifts from God and I am happy they have a sisterly bond.
My children are precious gifts from God and I am happy they have a sisterly bond.
My children are precious gifts from God and I am happy they have a sisterly bond.
My children are precious gifts from God and I am happy they have a sisterly bond.
My children are precious gifts from God and I am happy they have a sisterly bond.
My children are precious gifts from God and I am happy they have a sisterly bond.
My children are precious gifts from God and I am happy they have a sisterly bond.
My children are precious gifts from God and I am happy they have a sisterly bond.
My children are precious gifts from God and I am happy they have a sisterly bond.
My children are precious gifts from God and I am happy they have a sisterly bond.


Thankful II

I'm still feeling thankful. For the record, it does seem to help to write a thankful list. It makes me more mindful of these things.

So today I am thankful for:

• Captain America, who offered to put the kids to bed last night so I could spend a little more time with my family over at my parents' house

Gigi, who turned 85 this week

• The new computer

• Both of my girls' schools & teachers, right down to every last helper. I've been loving our Lake Wobegon schools. Big cities are nice and fun and there's lots to do and I'm not knocking them one bit. Teachers in Lake Wobegon know and love our kids, and they know our families. We see them in the grocery store and we go to church with them.

• Work, and good people to work with (mostly : P )

• Humidifiers and lotion in a dry, dry winter.

• Clementines. Oh sweet deliciousness.

• Scotch tape, paper, scissors and crayons, which keep my children entertained for hours.

• Ella, who has been exhibiting a lot of sweetness lately.

• Natalie, who will exhibit sweetness again someday (for now I will take joy in her passion. must repeat that to myself.).

• Gingerbread creamer.

• Christmas music. I love Christmas music. All kinds. I have 97 songs in my Christmas itunes list. It's not everything, but that's most of it. Such a short music season.

Which brings me to my 5 favorite Christmas songs this year:
5. "Christmas Song" from Dave Matthews
4. "I Believe in You" by either Go Fish (on More than a Story) or Sinead O'Connor
3. "Love Came Down at Christmas" by Jars of Clay
2. "Jesus Saves" from Travis Cottrell's Ring the Bells cd
1. "It's True" from Sara Groves' O Holy Night cd

And my 5 favorite Christmas carols in no particular order (except that #1 is my favorite):
1. What Child is This?
2. O Come, O Come Emmanuel
3. Silent Night
4. O Holy Night (despite it's abuse when I was growing up)
5. Away in a Manger (one version, but not the other. no idea how to explain which one.)



I'm remodeling the blog again. Playing with some things. Please pardon the dust.

More to come later on the Mystery Reader. It was more involved than I thought.


Looking for a new car?

Me neither. But if you were, you might check the grocery store parking lot here in Lake Wobegon as soon as the temps crack below zero.

I went last night around 5:45. Nearly every car in the lot was running, and I'm sure unlocked (I didn't check their doors). I turned mine off, because I thought I had too much stuff to get to let it run that long. But I admit I left it running when I went to Subway. And then I got all nervous, because a cop came in to get a sandwich and I have a memory of it being illegal to leave your car running unattended but I don't know if it really is or not. He didn't say anything.

But I'm guessing any Minnesota cop is going to look the other way when it's -11. That way he won't have to jump start it later.

In other news, today is Ella's half birthday at school. Which seems silly. Until you think about it, and she has a summer birthday, so they celebrate the half at school. We got a note home last week that we could bring treats. But they should be of the sugar free low fat variety. Like baby carrots and low fat dip. Happy Half Birthday, honey! When I was in Kindergarten, my aunt Didi sent a sheet cake to my school with six packs of orange pop (soda for my non-MN friends). I have sent a few boxes of Snackwell's Devils Food Cookies. Low fat. Low cholesterol.

I'm not saying I wanted to heap on the sugar or anything. I just would have sent some regular cookies. But I understand there are some health concerns in her room (because the note said so), and I do want to be sensitive to it. I would feel bad if somebody didn't get to have a treat because I brought something they couldn't eat.

I'm going to be the Mystery Reader, since it's Ella's special day. Apparently as the mystery reader, I will sneak into the school office around noon. Someone will come get me from her room, and they will put a bag over my head. Then the kids will guess who I am. And I will read a book. I supplied my own this morning, because I am an overachiever (HA!). Today's selection will be "Ella the Elegant Elephant."


I like tea, and other nonsense.

Today I am like your ipod on shuffle. Sometimes it works out great. Sometimes not so much.

One of my best friends this winter is the Mrs. Teapot I stole from my sister's contributions to the summer garage sale. My other good friends are the seasonal Coffeemate creamers.

We're having a snowday here in Lake Wobegon. We had an actual blizzard yesterday, and today the high is negative something. The windchill this morning was -40. For those of you who don't need to know what windchill is because you live on the other side of the mason-dixon, it means when you go outside it feels like it's -40. Despite the fact that it's really only -11 or something. For real.

Yesterday the blizzard was so bad they shut down the ski hill. And they stopped one of our church services (which we had stayed home from) in the middle and sent everyone home.

Have I told you the girls decided to share a room, so now I have an office? Yeah, I think it's going to be shortlived. I think they might need their space more than they realize. And you know what? I'm going to miss this office. Like crazy. But I suspect soon I will be back out in the kitchen. Listening to Dora on the tv. Getting run over in the daily chases. Trying to have business calls while someone yells, "MAMAAAAAA!!! I POOPED!!" in the background.

I laugh at people who think that little girls wear frilly dresses and pigtails and sit sweetly in the corner brushing their baby doll's hair. You may borrow my girls for one week, and see if it's true.

I cry when little kids sing en masse. Not just my own. Strangers. Put a bunch of little kids together, start them on Away in a Manger, and I'll have a softball sized lump in my throat.

I own 4 or 5 gray sweaters. How did this happen?

I want another tattoo.

My favorite pizza is from Pizza Ranch. They used to do BBQ beef. They don't have it anymore. Now I enjoy the buffalo chicken pizza, but only a piece or two. If I were ordering pizza from anywhere else and calories were no object, I'd get Papa John's. Just for the garlic butter. Another weird thing I like to do sometimes is put sour cream on my pizza. Especially pepperoni. I learned it from her, ok?

I love Big Bowl. If I could go have lettuce wraps, shrimp pad thai (because it's not spicey there), and a fresh ginger soda, my day is MADE. I wish we had one within 2 hours.

I've gone on too long already.


Thankful I

This past week a sermon hit home with me. Get this -- apparently, we have a tendency to complain. I KNOW. Me? What? It was about being thankful in prayer. How if we have a thankful spirit, we will be thankful in prayer, etc, etc. One of the ways to work on that is to list what you're thankful for. So here is what I am thankful for today (anything and everything):

• Diet Dr. Pepper
• The ability to work from home, and have my kids home with me
• Seeing evidence that I have not yet ruined my children
• Christmas music
• Godiva chocolates (caramels mostly, with no nuts)
• A blanket and a pot of tea when it's snowy
• Lower gas prices
• Paychecks (hooray, they're getting caught up and paying me!)
• Grandmas & Papas (also known as free and loving childcare)
• My new office!
• Little girls who actually want to share a room
• Warm boots and down coats
• Walls covered in little girl art


It's a Saturday.

A random, yet lengthy smattering of Saturday:

Last night we picked up a tree. We went with a balsam fir this year, and I have to say I don't know what we were thinking with the scotch pine last year. Seriously.

This morning we had it lit & decorated by 9:30. The girls were a little anxious. Baby Jesus tops the tree again. One of these days, I will find just the right angel. It wouldn't have mattered this year, because that tree looked much smaller at the "tree store." An angel wouldn't fit. Although I guess we could trim the top a bit. But I feel done with decorating it now. I'm moving on.

We (I'm using "we" very loosely here) watched our UMD Bulldogs play in the Division II semifinals. Or whatever it was they were doing. They beat the pants off of California, PA (I think that's who it was.). But the best part was the commentators. They could not get over how cold it was in Duluth, even though they weren't IN Duluth. "It's one of the coldest cities in the country." "It's in the single digits there today." "They call it the San Fransisco of the North." "They drink tomato juice in their beer. It's a Minnesota thing." Wait a minute... what??? I have never even heard of that. Granted, I don't drink beer. But I have been around beer. I have been in a bar. In Minnesota. I have never seen it in my life. Calling all Minnesotans -- have you actually seen this?

Took Ella shopping for her Christmas Program Outfit. She was sort of particular this year. At first she wanted pants. Then she remembered that at some point, she has to curtsy, so she felt she needed a full skirt. She spread the skirts out on every dress, and that's how she chose. Then, my little tomboy insisted on sparkly tights. And shiney shoes. She might be my daughter after all.

Suddenly, she nearly passed out from hunger at Target. She was laying in the cart, almost asleep complaining her tummy hurt. Not something to take lightly in the Season of Stomach Bugs. So we hightailed it. She insisted it was hunger, so against my better judgment, we went to McDonald's. At 3 pm. (For the record, she'd had lunch, she just apparently didn't eat enough)

The highlight: A group of older teens and a mom were sitting near us. Talking about the different parties, etc. they've frequented. "Remember that one with all the Mexicans?" Nice. "They were Puerto Rican." "Whatever. It's all Mexico." Oh my goodness. I think a child has been left behind. Sadly, noone corrected her. And I bit my tongue so I wouldn't. From across McDonald's.

As an aside, Sephora has free shipping with no minimum purchase through Monday. The code is SHOPNOW. This will make it even easier to send me my gifts. Thank you.


Mother of the year!

So I had just stepped into the shower this morning, when I heard Natalie (3) start crying. However, my children are prone to drama. Where do they get that? * ahem *

"Mommy will be there in just a minute!" Or 10. I debated hopping out to see what the deal was, but inevitably it's always something like a stubbed toe or a broken toy. Mommy needs a shower. Is that too much to ask?

Anyway, crying continues. Screaming. Sounds a little hysterical. Good grief we're in high dramatic form today. Then I get out of the shower and go track her down. She is huddled on her bed with Gie (pronounced like the French "Guy"). Turns out she'd taken a sand pail which she uses to haul small toys, and put it on her head. Where it got stuck. She's got the red line on her neck from the handle to prove it.

So, to recap, my child nearly strangled herself on a sand toy while I lather, rinsed, repeated. Nice.

I mentioned before we're reducing our carbon imprint by not using our tv or Directv receiver for 2-3 days. Ok, fine. It's totally unintentional. The receiver was going wacky. In the middle of live tv (rather than tivoed), it would pause. Freeze. Skip. Start again. Hiccup, if you will.

So Captain America called Directv. And they started to walk him through "fixing" it. Unplug for 30 seconds. So he did. And when he plugged it back in, we had nothing. Just a black screen. Unplug it again, and we got fuzz. Plug it in, it goes black. No live tv. No tivoed tv. NOTHING. {cue my hyperventilating}

After some fast talking, it's of course no longer under warranty (it was old). But since we're out of contract with them, we were able to sign back up for 2 years and get a new free receiver. They'd send us one of their DVR's. To which Captain America said, "Is there any way we can get a Tivo?" So we are. YES. In 2-3 business days.
{cue my hyperventilating}

I guess on the plus side, I've had nothing to tempt me away from working in the evenings, and I've read a few more chapters of Jane Eyre. But please. Please, sweet Jesus, let the Tivo come today.


I'm dreaming of a carbon neutral Christmas...

Ok, yeah, it doesn't quite have the ring to it. But how fun! Over on Lisa at Crazy Adventure's blog, she was giving away carbon neutral holidays. Through Brighter Planet, they have donated 136 pounds of carbon offsets (one day's worth) in my name.

Alright, I admit I still don't totally grasp the whole carbon offset thing. But I know they do it at the Oscars. And it's a good thing. And it makes me feel all chic and green.

AND. I get to pass the gift on to the first five people who click this link. What Brighter Planet would like in return, is that you consider how you can have a greener holiday.

Tomorrow I'll tell you how we're reducing our carbon imprint for 3 days by not turning on our Directv receiver or tv. Tune in to find out WHY ON EARTH THIS HAS HAPPENED. Anyway. How green of us.


My new favorite poet

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm a Donald Miller junkie. Today on his blog he posted a reading by Billy Collins. And unrelated to my devotion to Mr. Miller, Billy Collins may be my new favorite poet.

First, his introduction to poetry.

This is the poem posted by Donald Miller. I hope you appreciate this sort of thing like I do.

And this, this poem speaks to me. It really, REALLY speaks to me. Speaks loudly. Yells even.

Do you have a favorite poet or author? Somebody you can't get enough of?